Five Kiwis from all over Aotearoa embraced wet, windy conditions to dominate the podium in the second Downhill event for the week.
There was something special in the volcanic mud at Skyline today with five Kiwis making the podium for RockShox Rotorua Downhill. Today’s event could only be described as a wet and wild slip and slide of epic proportions—the muddiest race at a Crankworx Downhill event. Cheeky muddy faces, rain dances and gumboots were out in full force with a lot of rain, a slippery track, and 100% chance of surprises with so many opportunities for things to go wrong.
Crankworx Rotorua received funding from the New Zealand Major Events Fund of $5.1M for use between 2022 – 2027. Minister Stuart Nash, the Minister for Economic and Regional Development braved the wild weather today to see Crankworx in full swing.
“Crankworx Rotorua allows you to watch the best riders in the world. You have got kids doing this – the future of the sport, professional men and women and every skill level in between. That is what makes Crankworx Rotorua so special. It is not just about riders on their own it is a spectator’s event and experience. When you are here experiencing it, its magic, it’s awesome”.
“Come along, there is another Crankworx event here again in March – book it in for 2023”.
RockShox Rotorua Downhill brings together the world’s racing elite to take on the track on Mount Ngongotaha, the track boasts a mix of off-camber, hard-packed Rotorua dirt with step-ups, bridge drops and a rock garden. This year also saw the unplanned addition of the hecklers’ puddle, where kids lined up to be washed out with spray double overhead by riders as they flew past. All the fans needed for a good time was some mud and a puddle.
It was a full Kiwi podium sweep for the Men’s Elite Final. Sam Blenkinsop backed up his win at the Taniwha Downhill last weekend by taking gold in today’s event. Brook Macdonald, a fellow Kiwi and World Cup winner, held the hot seat for most of the round, but it wasn’t enough as Blinky kept it smooth and fast, smashing Macdonald’s time by 7.8 seconds.
“It started off going backwards, but I survived. That’s what I wanted to do; I was pretty scared in a lot of places. I was just thinking, if I crash, I crash. It’s kind of wet so you will slide out and probably not break anything, so I just let it go and had some fun. I thought it was going to be really hard to beat Brook because he came down earlier and the track was probably not that bad”.
“It was good to see all of the spectators up there in the mud, where I almost lost it there, but it was fun; I loved it”.
It was feet up, confident riding from Matt Walker, the enduro specialist from Queenstown, to round out the Kiwi sweep. Walker had a podium finish at the Enduro World Championships this year, and this is his first Crankworx podium since 2020.
Mother Nature would not let up for the women’s finals with pounding rain, wind and some soft tracks, but the Kiwi women know how to handle their home soil. Louise Ferguson gave a masterclass on wet weather riding and took the opportunity to knock local legend Jenna Hastings off the hot seat. Hastings had a crash in seeding that hurt her shoulder but that still didn’t stop her from taking silver, making it her third trip to the podium this week.
“Trying to put down a race run in conditions like this is like you’re not even trying to race anymore. Just get to the bottom, try and stay on, go as fast as you can, but you really can’t go that fast up there. Lou went really quick, but I think, personally, I just wanted to get to the bottom”.
“I remember when I was a kid like these kids here, taking every opportunity to get right into it and get soaked by these pros, and just make the most of it”.
Caitlin Flavell was nine when she first started attending Crankworx in Rotorua with her dad, competing in Kidsworx, she is now 17 and competing on the world circuit. Flavell took more risks on today’s track than the other ladies and made light work of the course with a total of four crashes to slip and slide into bronze to join Hastings on the podium.
The racing may have finished for the day, but the competition continued with the iconic photo showdown Deep Summer Rotorua. Five talented mountain bike and adventure photographers were given three days in Rotorua to capture some of the best elements of mountain bike culture pulling together an epic slideshow to showcase at the event. Deep Summer gives photographers a great opportunity to showcase their work on the world stage.
The action from today really made an impact on the overall King and Queen of Crankworx standings. Bas van Steenbergen didn’t win the Downhill today, but he’s still leading right now. van Steenbergen still holds a lead of 127 points ahead of Jackson Frew with Jackson Frew knocking Tomas Lemoine out of the top three by 74 points. The Queen of Crankworx standings is head-to-head with Caroline Buchanan and Jordy Scott tied for first with only 54 points separating both ladies from Vaea Verbeeck. It will be a tight race to the crown with just two more events left on the tour this year.
Current standings: crankworx.com/results/series/2022-king-queen/
Results – Specialised Dual Slalom
- Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) // Louise Ferguson (GBR)
- Brook Macdonald (NZL) // Jenna Hastings (NZL)
- Matt Walker (NZL) // Caitlin Flavell (NZL)
Full results: crankworx.com/results/
The action continues tomorrow as riders are put through their paces with CLIF Speed and Style at Skyline Bike Park Rotorua. Catch all the action from home on Red Bull TV.
Stay tuned for updates on Crankworx Rotorua as they come, and stay up to date with all things Crankworx: crankworx.com
About Crankworx Rotorua
Crankworx Rotorua took flight in March of 2015, becoming the first festival outside of North America and Europe. Since then, it’s played host to some of the most memorable moments in Crankworx history and is now referred to “the soul of Crankworx” due to the unique ability to combine riding with culture. This year, Crankworx Rotorua will once again be the final stop of the World Tour, celebrating the season’s champions, including the crowning of the King and Queen of Crankworx.